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Professor Zhang Xianlong Chats to Postgraduates about Cotton Breeding and Personal Development

On December 14, the academic exchange activity themed “Source of warmth in winter: exploring cotton breeding technology” was held at Room 103 in HuiYuan student community. Professor Zhang Xianlong from the College of Plant Science & Technology, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, engaged in a lively discussion with postgraduate students on cotton breeding technology and personal development.
When asked about his passion for research, Professor Zhang said that his decision to specialize in crop genetics and breeding was motivated by his aspiration to “make hometown a better place”. While schooling, he always cared about the development of his hometown, being committed to devoting himself to the development of rural areas and agriculture. Guided by his supervisor, Zhang delved deeper in the field, viewing research as a lifelong career. He dedicated himself to cotton breeding, aiming to free China’s cotton industry from depending on foreign technology. Furthermore, he also urged students to cherish the current favorable learning and research resources, transforming the academic pressure into internal motivation, and continually seeking interest in scientific research during their studies.
In his research career, Pro. Zhang experienced a period of struggling during the early years. In 1992, just two years after obtaining his doctoral degree, his knowledge of molecular biology was still in its infancy. Thanks to the recommendation of his supervisor, he had the opportunity to work with Academician Deng Xiuxin in the newly established National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement. Looking back at the hardships of those years, Zhang couldn’t help expressing gratitude to his supervisor and colleagues who had assisted him. He mentioned that when Zhang Zhidong founded Hubei Agricultural School, the predecessor of HZAU, American cotton seeds were export-restricted to China, making the import of cotton seeds exceptionally difficult. Today, thanks to the hard work of generations of agricultural scientists, China’s cotton varieties and cultivation level are at the forefront globally. In addition, he encouraged students to align research goals with China’s national realities and practical needs, focusing on high-quality sustainable green development. He emphasized the importance of exploring how to ensure cotton yield and quality while reducing the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and water resources. Additionally, he urged students to uphold academic ethics as a fundamental requirement for any research work.
In addition to making remarkable advancements in scientific research, Zhang has also spent over ten years focusing on graduate education and training. He was of the opinion that enhancing quality and goal-oriented management, highlighting innovative skills and facilitating platform development, and encouraging academic exchanges are essential components of graduate education. He advised graduate students to actively attend various academic presentations, not limiting themselves to their specific fields but broadening their horizons. He emphasized that science is an art where high standards should prevail in either presentations or graphics. In terms of graduate student education, he follows the principle of “leading the slow and urging the fast”, fully tapping into each student’s research potential, designing personalized training plans, and insisting on individualized cultivation.
During the interactive session, students actively participated. Ph.D. student Yu Zirun from the College of Animal Sciences & Technology discussed with Professor Zhang on the application of artificial intelligence technology and animal vaccines in the cotton industry. Zhang pointed out that with the rapid development of artificial intelligence, the cotton industry is actively exploring intelligent breeding and production. He hoped that students would continue to explore current pain points and strive for the comprehensive application of artificial intelligence technology in agriculture as soon as possible. Graduate students Xia Yan and Zhou Jingbo from the College of Plant Science & Technology sought advice from Zhang on professional issues such as the utilization of hybrid advantages in cotton and the developmental mechanism of cotton fibers. Zhang explained the differences between cotton varieties and their respective advantages, fully acknowledging the efforts of frontline researchers. He also encouraged students to achieve higher quality results in the future on a broader platform and undertake the mission of the next generation of researchers.


Translated by: Sun Ying
Proofread by: Fu Wenyu
Supervised by: Xie Lujie